from Chauncey Giles, The Sanctity of Marriage (Philadelphia:  American New-Church Tract and Publication Society, 1904 (copyright 1896))

Table of Contents


5. Marriage in Heaven

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son."

Matthew 22:2

All the principles concerning the origin, nature, and sanctity of marriage that I have already stated and illustrated tend to the conclusion that the marriage relation must exist in the spiritual world and there find its full consummation and blessedness. If marriage is essentially the union of minds, if it is the union of the essential constituents of the spirit, if man was made male and female, it follows as a logical and inevitable consequence that these qualities and relations must endure as long as the spirit itself.

There can be no doubt that the vague notions that prevail in the church and the world concerning the nature of the human spirit have had a powerful influence in establishing the common opinion that sex and marriage pertain only to the material body, and consequently that when that perishes they vanish with it. This must be so if the spirit is nothing but a formless essence, a mere vital force without organization or substance. It is absurd, and impossible in the nature of things, that the conscious and reciprocal union which constitutes the essential nature of marriage could exist between formless essences. There could be no masculine and feminine qualities, no distinction of nature in such vacuity. We may go still farther and say that there could be no man, nor woman, nor human being. According to common notions and the general teaching of, the churches, man as a distinct, human, conscious being is simply annihilated at the dissolution of the material body.

But this is not the doctrine of the New Church. According to every principle and fact of its teachings, it declares that man as to his spirit is organized in the human form. It is the spirit that gives form to the body as a whole and in every fiber and cell. The dissolution of the material body no more affects the form of the spirit than drawing a glove from the hand dissipates its form. Instead of destroying the form of the spirit, or changing one of its faculties or qualities, the dissolution of the material body withdraws the veil which concealed them, brings them into view to the spiritual senses, and frees them from all hindrances to the exercise of their special faculties. The masculine and feminine natures become more distinct and manifest, and every condition of life more favorable to a genuine marriage. As our doctrines deal primarily with man as a spiritual being, they give us clear and satisfactory instruction concerning the nature of his spiritual faculties, the means of their culture and development, and the attainment of the happiness which he was created to enjoy. As marriage is an essential factor in securing or destroying his happiness in this life, we are sure that it must continue to be in the endless continuation of this life in the world to come.

I invite your attention to a more special statement of some of the rational grounds for believing that the marriage relation continues and attains its perfection in heaven, and of some of the supreme excellences which characterize it.

The imperishable nature of sex is a necessary consequence of its origin. If it had originated in the material body, it might perish with it. But it did not. It has its origin in the Divine nature. This is clearly taught by the Lord in the words, " So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Man - and by man is not meant one masculine person, but the human race - was created male and female, and he was created in the image of God. The distinction of sex must therefore continue forever. The masculine and feminine elements of man's nature must have been one of the particulars in which he was made in the image of God. The love which draws husband and wife together must be Divine and heavenly in its origin.. When man lost that image he became divorced from the Lord, and marriage became a merely natural relation. As he regains that image the relation becomes spiritual, and the Lord calls Himself a Husband, and He calls regenerate man - the church - His bride and wife, and the relation between Him and His church a marriage. The history of humanity also uniformly testifies to the truth that the marriage relation becomes pure and sacred in the degree that man and woman become heavenly minded. Evil lusts and false principles degrade man and interpose the only obstacles that hinder a perfect union between husband and wife. As our natures become elevated by the knowledge and practice of Divine truth, all that is pure and lovely in womanhood, and all that is true and noble in manhood, is more fully developed, and the union between husband and wife becomes more intimate, and the bonds that bind them together are strengthened. As heaven descends to earth and its principles become embodied in human lives, marriage rises in the purity of its motives, and approaches more fully a heavenly state. Being Divine and heavenly in its origin, marriage becomes true and complete as man and woman become regenerate. Is it probable, therefore, that when they come fully into that state, when all that is evil and false is removed, when men and women become truly angelic, when the image and likeness of the Lord into which they were created is restored, that the love that binds husband and wife together will be dissolved? That would be directly contrary to the operation of heavenly principles in this life, and subversive of the end for which man was created. The Lord cannot contradict and work against Himself. His kingdom is not a kingdom divided against itself.

The dissolution of the marriage bond by the entrance of man into heaven would be directly contrary to all the Lord's methods of accomplishing His purposes. It would be descent from a higher to a lower instead of ascent from a lower to a higher state. It would be passing from a particular, intimate, and special union to an indefinite and general one. Perfection is always attained by advancing from generals to particulars. This is a universal law. There is a common or general attraction between man and woman. The masculine and feminine natures are drawn towards each other. This common affection begins to manifest itself in youth, between boys and girls, and increases as they develop. It is not the love of any particular person, at first. It is a common affection, which leads man to see in woman, and woman to find in man, something that awakens more interest than they find in their own sex. When this love is directed to one person, it becomes exalted and intensified. Two natures are drawn together and become one. So long as it is a love of the sex merely, there can be nothing of this intimate union. It is a vague, indifferent longing or want of the soul. But the moment it becomes individualized, the soul finds what it had been groping for, and the whole being is filled with an intense delight, and this delight increases, just in proportion to the purity and interior nature of the union. When there is a real marriage of souls, and husband and wife have one mind and one way; when each finds in the other the complement of his or her own being, the happiness of such a union is too great and interior for words to express.

Now, according to the common idea, this intimate and personal bond is dissolved by death, and the soul returns into a state of a general and universal affection. Many suppose the distinction of sex will be obliterated. The wife and husband will be no more to each other than any other beings. There will remain only the common bond of love to the Lord and the neighbor. Supposing the distinction of sex to remain, men and women lose that specific and personal affection which constituted their most interior and exalted delight, and return to that indefinite and common one, which was the first blind movement of the soul towards that union of heart and life. This is the entire reversal of the Divine method of perfecting man's nature and filling his soul with the blessedness of heaven. The heavenly life, instead of being an advancement along the paths of the Divine order, reverses man's course, and leads him back to the blind and chaotic state of his first years in this life. But this cannot be. The Lord always works like Himself. Spiritual laws are immutable. Man's whole nature must be changed before he can find his highest happiness in a general affection. Every principle of his being tends to the specific and the personal. A common affection partakes more of the nature of the instinct of animals than the rational and specific forms of human love. It is therefore entirely in accordance with all the principles of man's life, and with all the methods of the Divine wisdom, that the marriage relation should remain, and the union between husband and wife should become more specific, personal, and interior; and the more fully each one becomes the other's self, the more exalted, interior, and perfect will be their happiness.

If we regard the subject from the nature of marriage, we shall be led to the same conclusion. Marriage is essentially a union of souls. It is an interior and spiritual union. The ceremony performed by the minister or the magistrate is nothing more than the sanction of the church or of the state to the real marriage. The love that binds husband and wife together is the real marriage. This love has its origin in the Lord, and is His perpetual gift. When a man and woman find in each other the complements of their own being, God joins them together. Their thoughts and affections coalesce. There is really but one will and one understanding between them. The union is of the same nature as that which exists between the will and the understanding in each individual mind. We all know how happy we are when we love to do what we know we ought to do. The will and the understanding are one. There is no conflict within; there is no ground for any conflict, for all the elements of our nature perfectly blend and act in harmony. When there is perfect harmony between the will of one person and the understanding in another, both natures flow together as one. Thought meets affection and affection blends with thought in the most particular principles. There is a blending of life with life. God joins them together in the beginning or in the first and inmost principles of their being. It is impossible to separate them without destroying the life of both. You might as well separate the heart and lungs in the material body, or tear the arteries and veins from their minute and special conjunction with each other, or pull out the nerves from the body, and still preserve its ability to feel and serve as the material instrument of the mind. To destroy the marriage relation, then, would rupture the inmost principles of our being and sever all those ties which bind the two halves of our life together. Marriage has its seat in the spiritual plane of life, the plane that comes out into open consciousness when we enter heaven. To destroy it, therefore, when it exists between two beings, would destroy heaven itself for them, for it would destroy all ability to receive the life of heaven.

Imagine a husband and wife who have found in each other the counterparts of their own nature, who have gone through this life together sharing each other's joys and sorrows and bearing each other's burdens; whose souls have grown together by the constant interchange of thought and affection, so that they have the same principles, the same purposes, the same methods;-suppose husband and wife to have this unity of life broken, to lose sight of each other, or to become nothing more to each other than they are to the whole multitude of the angels; what can they find in heaven to compensate for this loss? Every link in life is broken. They are cut off from the attainment of heavenly happiness, because the Lord does not communicate life and blessedness to us immediately from Himself, but through others; and by the supposition the closest and most intimate bonds of association have been severed. They are like an organ in the material body, cut off from its direct and normal connection with the heart. The possibility of happiness in heaven is destroyed.

In heaven, we are taught and love to believe, all are drawn together by mutual affinities of nature. And these are not general alone. They are personal and specific. Those who have the strongest attachment for each other are drawn the nearest to each other. Those who are the counterparts of each other come into the most intimate union. They must live one life. They must live together. They are united as the branch to the vine, as the heart to the lungs. The union is established in the order of infinite wisdom, and no circumstance, no power, no man, and no angel can put them asunder.

There is not, therefore, the slightest foundation in reason for the belief that the marriage relation will not exist in heaven. On the contrary, everything leads to the conclusion that it will. It is heavenly in its nature. It is the best type and example of that union with the Lord which constitutes heaven. It has its origin in the Lord and descends through heaven from Him. It is also in perfect harmony with man's nature in its least and greatest principles, in its lowest forms, and in its purest and most exalted state. There is not the shadow of a reason against its existence in heaven; but everything in nature, in man, in heaven, and in the Lord proves not only its existence, but its absolute necessity. It has already been shown that the words of our Lord in regard to marriage in heaven do not deny its existence, but point to the elevation and exaltation of marriage to more interior and perfect forms than those in which it has its beginning in this life.

Let us, then, inquire into the nature of the heavenly marriage, and into the relation it bears to marriage in this life.

Marriage, as has been before explained, exists in various degrees. There is merely civil or ecclesiastical marriage. By this marriage a man and woman become legally and formally husband and wife. They are joined together in this life and for things in this life. This legal bond may be the only union between them. 'This, as we well know, is often the case. All their natural affections, tastes, principles, and habits may be opposed to each other. They may not have anything in common but the most external and material things. Divorces are often asked on the ground of incompatibility of temper and tastes.

In addition to the civil bond of marriage there may be a natural union. The natural affections, tastes, habits, position in society, and the ends which husband and wife seek in life may be congenial and harmonious. Their lives flow on pleasantly together. Each one meets the expectations and satisfies the wants of the other. They are regarded as fortunate and happy, and, when judged by the usual standards, they are so. But the union may be confined to the natural degree of life only. It may touch no distinctly spiritual faculty.

But in marriage that is spiritual and heavenly the husband and wife are united in the inmost plane of their being. The regenerate will and understanding are married, and two lives become one life.

When the marriage is nothing more than a mere civil compact it is dissolved at death, as all bargains and merely civil compacts are. When it is spiritual and heavenly, it always remains. Death cannot touch it.

A heavenly marriage - and this is what is meant by marriage in the Sacred Scriptures - can take place only between those who become regenerated. This is evident, for only those can enter heaven. Regeneration consists in the creation of a new will and a new understanding. A man must love goodness and believe the truth, and he must bring them down into life. A heavenly will and understanding must be married in the deeds. A man must be betrothed to the Lord in righteousness, and his own nature must be a married land before he can enter heaven, or before he can be spiritually united to another being.

But with persons who become regenerated and enter heaven, those who are partners in this life may not in all cases be partners forever. This will depend entirely upon the nature of their union in this life. If the marriage was natural only, it will be dissolved; if it was spiritual, it will remain. Married partners usually meet in the world of spirits, which is the introductory state of the other life, where their interior natures are revealed to each other; if they are not spiritually united, they voluntarily separate, and sooner or-later find those of a homogeneous nature.

Those who pass into the spiritual world in infancy and youth, and those who have never been married in this world, if they become regenerated will find those to whom they are spiritually allied, and will dwell with them in the heavens. There will be no mistakes there. There will be no alliances from mere appearances or external considerations. Marriage in the heavens is never a mere ceremony or legal union. It is a real union of souls, - of souls that are the complement of each other. As all in the heavens are drawn together by a pure and heavenly affection, those in whom the affection is the strongest will be drawn into the closest union, and will be held in it by indissoluble bonds.

That there is an innate desire or tendency in every man and woman for communion of thought and affection is confirmed by the universal testimony of individual experience and history. The more intelligent, virtuous, and pure-minded men and women become, the more interior and powerful the attractions and motives which draw them together; the bonds of marriage are more indissoluble, and the happiness which flows from it is more full, intense, and blissful. From this universal principle we may form a true, though inadequate, idea of the nature of married life in heaven.

The husband and wife will be freed from all the cares and anxieties, the labor and weariness, that must be the lot of even the most fortunate in this world. There will be no regrets for the past and no fears for the future. No fear of sickness or want, nor of any harm from any being or circumstance. There will be no fear of any misunderstanding, or estrangement, or parting. No doubts will ever arise about the reality and perpetuity of their union. They will know that they belong to each other by the constitution of their natures. If we could eliminate from married life in this world all these causes which disturb its harmonies and mar its beauty and peace, it would be heaven upon earth. But this is only a negative aspect; it is only what it is not. Let us see what it must be from the very nature of this union, and from the perfections of heaven.

The husband and wife will act and think and feel and will alike in every respect, the most particular as well as the most general. They will have everything in their dwelling itself, and everything both within and around it, that perfectly suits and satisfies the tastes and wants of both. There will be no differences of opinion in the most external or the most trifling things. There will be no ambitions or rivalries, or efforts to pass beyond their station. They will be perfectly content with everything they possess.

The wife will be to her husband the most beautiful and lovely of all the angels. He will see grace in every motion and harmony in every tone of her voice. She will be to him the perfect embodiment of his ideal; she will be his will clothed in its corresponding perfections and manifest to his senses in perfect form. The husband will be to the wife the most manly and noble of all the angels. He will be her understanding; the perfect form and expression of her thought. He will be her highest ideal of a man. So each one will find in the other the perfect complement of his or her own being. There will be no lack and no excess. No faculty or feature will be too much or too little pronounced. Husband and wife will have one will and one mind and one way. " They twain shall be one."

The happiness that flows from this unity of life will be inconceivably increased by the perfection of all the powers in heaven, and of all surrounding objects. Every sense will become exquisitely delicate, and every delight elevated and intensified. There may be unity without exaltation or perfection. It may be a unity of sameness.

But the heavenly unity is the unity of harmonious variety. Other things being equal, happiness is in proportion to the variety of faculties that are called into activity and the interior and delicate harmonies of their action. The difference in the emotions excited in the same mind by looking over a vast waste of sand and a landscape varied with every form of natural beauty is very great. But a mind of high and various culture will find innumerable things to awaken thought and emotion which escape the observation of the ignorant. In heaven the objects of beauty and interest will be indefinitely multiplied. The faculties which they call into play are freed from the obscuring veil of flesh. The eye has a penetration and acuteness of vision, and the ear a delicate perception of sweet sounds, of which we can have only the faintest conception. And every outward object and relation is the representative form and expression of happy states within. Heavenly partners see the image of each other's thought and affection in everything without them. To the wife the image of the husband is seen in everything; to the husband the image of the wife is seen in everything. It is not alone when they look into each other's faces or hear each other's voices that their affections are awakened; their thoughts and affections and the inmost principles of their being blend in everything. Every object around them is indeed the expression of their thoughts and affections combined in one image. The wife sees the wisdom of the husband everywhere, and she rejoices in it as her own. The husband sees the wife's taste and elegance and purity and love for him everywhere. Thus everything is living with the life of both. We can all understand how much this mutual recognition of each other's life must exalt and intensify their happiness. A book or a letter that one dear to us has written, a picture which a friend has painted, a natural object that has belonged to one we love, or a landscape we have looked upon together, excites the most lively interest and awakens the most painful or delightful emotions. How full and perfect must be the happiness of heaven, where every beautiful and lovely thing is as a perfect mirror in which each married partner beholds the interior thoughts and affections of the other.

But even this might not fully and forever satisfy all the wants of the soul. If there were no progress and no variety, even heavenly men and women might grow weary of each other. Man's spiritual nature aspires towards the infinite. He will grow weary of the most perfect beauty and the most exalted states. But there is no danger of weariness in heaven from this cause. The life of every angel is continually unfolding. Every parent knows what delight the unfolding faculties of a child awaken, and from this, some idea may be gained of the pleasant surprises that will continually awaken new interest in heaven. We have only the faintest conception of the capacities of the human soul. There is no assignable limit beyond which it may not pass, and its progress increases in a continually accelerating ratio. The greater its attainments, the larger its capacity to give and receive, the more rapid and varied will be its development. Beautiful and perfect as life maybe in any given state, new and more lovely scenes will continually open to the expanding mind; new discoveries of Divine truth will awaken new thoughts and affections, which will disclose profounder depths in the nature of husband or wife. Every day will be fresh with a new life, and every new discovery will draw married partners closer together and awaken within them intenser and more profound delights. And this will be the law and the effect of their progress forever.

No one grows old in heaven. Every one grows towards the perfection of life. Those who have lived together united in heart, and have grown old and become subject to the infirmities of age in this world, throw off all the infirmities when they pass into heaven, and grow towards a state of perpetual youth. They come into a glow and fullness of life and beauty that surpass everything of earth. They grow towards a state of ever-increasing perfection in outward form and inward state, and attain a peace and blessedness that words cannot express, nor our feeble minds conceive.

Such is an imperfect statement of what the doctrines of the New Church teach concerning the nature and blessedness of marriage in heaven. Is there anything in it contrary to reason? Is there a man or a woman who does not feel conscious of the capacity for such a union and such a life? of a want that nothing else could satisfy? Can you conceive of a state or form of life that would be better adapted to our whole nature and more conducive to the most varied, profound, and exquisite happiness? The Sacred Scriptures attest the eternal nature of marriage, when they declare that God created man male and female, and that He joins husband and wife together, and that they are no more twain. The Lord's methods of accomplishing His purposes as they are manifested in the creation, with united voice confirm it, and it must be true.

What a sanctity does this truth give to the relation of husband and wife! What motives of the most weighty import it holds out to men and women to take upon themselves its vows and its responsibilities from no unworthy cause ! to guard its sanctities with the most scrupulous vigilance ! And what encouragement it holds out to husbands and wives to put away from their own affections, thoughts, and conduct everything that hinders the beginning of the union in this life, and to cherish every principle that will prepare them to enter more fully into its fruition in the life to come.

In one of his " Memorable Relations," Swedenborg describes a husband and wife who had lived together in heaven since the Golden Age of humanity. He was permitted to see them, he says, that he might give to men upon the earth some idea of the life of those who have been united in heart and have passed into the heavens. When they came near, they said to him, "We are consorts; we have lived blessed in heaven from the first age, which is called by you the Golden Age, and in the same perpetual flower of youth in which you now see us at this day." Swedenborg continues, " I looked at each attentively, because I perceived that they represented marriage love in its life and in its adornment; in its life in their faces, and in its adornment in their clothing; for all angels are affections of love in a human form; the ruling affection itself shines forth from their faces, and from the affection and according to it are their garments; wherefore, it is said in heaven, that his own affection clothes every one. The husband appeared of a middle age between manhood and youth; from his eyes shone forth a light sparkling from the wisdom of love, from which light his face was as if interiorly radiant, and from this radiance the skin was throughout refulgent, whereby his whole face was one resplendent comeliness... . The face of the wife was seen by me, and was not seen; it was seen as beauty itself, and it was not seen, because this beauty was inexpressible; for in her face was a splendor of flaming light, such light as the angels of the third heaven have, and it made my sight dim, so that I stood still. She, observing this, addressed me, saying, ‘What do you see?' I replied, ‘I see nothing but marriage love and the form thereof; but I see and I do not see.' At this she turned herself obliquely from her husband and then I could look upon her more intently. Her eyes were bright with the light of her own heaven, which, as was said, was flaming from the love of wisdom; for in that heaven the wives love their husbands from their wisdom and in it, and husbands love their wives from and in that love towards themselves, and thus they are made one. Hence was her beauty which was such that no painter could emulate and exhibit it in its form, for his colors have no such lustre, nor can his art express such beauty."

Such are the possibilities that lie before every man and every woman, whatever may be our condition or circumstances in this world. We have only to cherish those affections which constitute genuine marriage, and make its principles our own by making them the rule of daily life, and we shall become sharers in a heavenly marriage that will grow more intimate, more varied, more harmonious, more joyful and blissful forever.

To Next Chapter